The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Sunday, 2016. Mark 16:1-8.
The Gospel Lesson Where Jesus Is Absent



Easter Sunday, 2016

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson




The Hymn #191               Christ the Lord                                  
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn #188                Hallelujah                                

The Gospel Lesson Where Jesus Is Absent


The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #657            Beautiful Savior

The Easter lilies are in memory of our members and family who have passed into everlasting life, most recently Tammy Jackson's mother, Liliys Frystak.

Happy 26th Anniversary, Brett and Amy Meyer. "May every day be like your wedding day." German blessing.


KJV 1 Corinthians 5:6 Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? 7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

KJV Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.


Easter

Lord God, heavenly Father, who didst deliver Thy Son for our offenses, and didst raise Him again for our justification: We beseech Thee, grant us Thy Holy Spirit, that He may rule and govern us according to Thy will; graciously keep us in the true faith; defend us from all sins, and after this life raise us unto eternal life, through the same, Thy beloved Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

The Lesson Where Jesus Is Absent
KJV Mark 16:1 And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 

This Gospel lesson is so important in considering the meaning of the empty tomb. Instead of featuring Jesus, His works and statements, this lesson emphasizes the absence of Jesus, because the women went to honor His body and He was not there to be honored. This is the only Gospel lesson I can recall where Jesus is absent.

For that reason, we should consider all that we do and think, because we carry so many burdens, like the women carrying their spices. That was a burden, as everyone knows who has trudged along, carrying one thing or another. Yesterday I needed to take a bag of rocks and a large bag of birdseed to the backyard, from the truck of the car. The first thing I thought of was - how can I make this easier? I used the two garbage cans on wheels as my wheelbarrow, and lightened the burden.

Imagine that over a long distance and wondering too, how will I manage to get this burden inside, since the tomb is sealed? And yet all that work, anxiety, and labor, though filled with good intentions, meant nothing.

This lesson teaches us that the Gospel message itself is everything, not our works, merit, not even what our anxieties, concerns, and sins are that we drag along with us. 

2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

These three women were not wasting time. They did not do all the work normally done for the preparation of the body, due to the time of the crucifixion and the Passover, when work was forbidden. Preparation of the body was part of the burial, so they had a confusing and conflicting job to do. They had to have worked out a plan to meet and have the materials ready, and they had to get up very early and set out because they reached the tomb at the rising of the sun.

This preparation is so important the Sumner Redstone, the Jewish owner of CBS and Viacom, aged 93, has this preparation written into his will. The tradition continues even today, and it is part of a genuine Jewish funeral.

Their conflict came from the issue of the tomb itself. As most graphics show, the door was not an enormous round boulder, which would be extremely difficult for a group of men to move, but a stone lid that rolled in a groove. The lid could be shoved to the side in that groove, or even flattened to the ground, by several men. Unless the women were EMT bodybuilders, the shoulder strength required was entirely lacking for the very job they came to do. But in faith they busied themselves with the job anyway and arrived early.

So it was that the Jewish traditions and the timing of the crucifixion coincided to make them the first witnesses of the empty tomb, so that nothingness became the most important visible symbol of the resurrection of Christ.

3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?

The question they finally asked is one that continues to bedevil our rationalistic society. They assumed Jesus was dead and sealed in His tomb. For many people today, that is their estimation of the Bible and the Christian Faith. That is probably the most significant question to ask an ordained pastor or theologian. "Did Jesus rise bodily from the dead?" One must qualify rise because some would say yes, meaning in a spiritual or mythological sense. I asked a future Unitarian minister that question, plus the Virgin birth, and she said, "Those are not important questions to ask." The same response came from ELCA seminaries when I wrote to them to ask if anyone on their faculty taught the actual bodily resurrection of Christ and the Virgin Birth. One seminary (out of nine) said that yes, one faculty member published that the resurrection of Christ "probably happened." That seminary is now merging into a college because of its financial and enrollment problems (Berkeley). 

Lacking faith in the empty tomb, the vast majority of mainline ministers and theologians have nothing to say to anyone, except to praise human works and mock the Word of God. This was an issue during the Seminex crisis in the LCMS, when the faculty at Concordia Seminary mocked the Bible in their lectures and proclaimed they were the true Confessional Lutherans protecting the Missouri Synod and all Lutherdom from Medieval scholasticism.

4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.

They came to the tomb, in faith, but not really knowing what would be revealed, only to find their greatest anxiety was already solved. On the way they were saying, "We will never get that stone to move. No one will be out there to help us when we get there. We will be standing there with all these spices and not able to do our duties for our Teacher." But that one problem was already solved for them, in a way they never considered.

Jesus had told His disciples He would suffer horrible punishment, die, and rise from the dead. They were too stunned to comprehend all He taught, which we can understand. When stress is too great, we do not see or imagine the obvious, lose and forget things, and distort reality. So they did not even recall what was said beforehand, if that message reached them through the disciples. If the disciples had grasped this teaching, they would have been there too, not for preparing a body but to witness the empty tomb. And so we daily forget the empty tomb and carry our baggage on a burdensome trip that need not be a funeral procession when it is really a victory march appointed by God Himself through His Son Jesus and witnessed in the Word by the Holy Spirit.

Luther says in one of his Easter sermons that God salts and stretches our hides so we will pay attention to His Word. Our external and internal sufferings remind us of our need for comfort in the Gospel. 

5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.

Jesus was already risen from the dead, not from the angels opening the tomb for Him (Calvinism) but from His divine nature, which was not limited by His human nature. The idea that the Son of God needed help from mere angels is a testimony to the rationalism of Calvinism; that explains why so many heresies like UOJ spring from Calvin, just as mushrooms sprout from decaying matter. I could post a painting from a WELS congregation's website (Witte, a founder of Church and Change), showing an angel "letting Jesus out of the tomb" but that would only promote the graphic.

Anyone would look in a tomb like that and be frightened about what might be there, including a robber or a wild animal. Seeing the angel, they were afraid, perhaps even more afraid and uncertain than when they saw the opened tomb.

Words of faith in the Bible often follow - Do not be afraid. for....

Isaiah 41:10

10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
3. "Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.
How Firm a Foundation, TLH, #427

The words that follow the angel's admonition, Do not be afraid, are poetic, perhaps an early catechism or creed -
Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, 
which was crucified: 
he is risen; 
he is not here: 
behold the place where they laid him.
7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
This verse also has a poetic structure, very much like the Psalms or a hymn, and it says so much in a few words. "Go, tell" is the same kind of message as the Great Commission - "Go, teach...baptize." The resurrection itself is the Gospel, the triumph of life over death, forgiveness over sin.
The Gospel is underlined by saying they will see the risen Christ, as He promised.
The post-resurrection time is quite different from the three-year ministry, which was leisurely in retrospect. The disciples and followers had extended times to be with Him, hear Him teach, and watch Him perform miracles. The time after the resurrection meant preparing the cadre of believers for the establishment of the Christian Church.
The vivid nature of the Gospels was described by Albert Einstein, who had a low opinion of the Bible in general.


"In spite of this opinion [GJ - about the Bible], Einstein had a high view of Jesus Christ as expressed in his comments to interviewer, George Sylvester Viereck: "I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.” You accept the historical existence of Jesus? “Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life" (Isaacson 2007)."

Einstein could not miss the effect of the Holy Spirit bringing Jesus to us through the Word. It is a fact that has made Jesus the number 1 choice for biographies in history. Everyone wants to try it but few do it with faith in the Word as it is, They like to pick and choose, as someone said, "He looked down a well and painted a picture of what he saw, a perfect reflection of his own face."

8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

The repair work of the resurrection began, step by step, after this. Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the two (Emmaus) and the eleven. They were all crestfallen and fearful of retaliation.

Jesus admonished them for their weak faith and hardness of heart, as He had during His public ministry. However, this experience built them up from total devastation to unwavering faith in the resurrection.

Like the eleven, Paul was also converted to this deep and abiding faith by the risen Lord. In each and every case, they sorrowed as those who had no hope. They were examples, as we are, of fear taking over and driving away faith. What people need is not more courage (manliness in Greek - arete, the quality of being like Ares, or Mars, the war-god) but more trust in God.

But they are also examples of people driven to the depths of despair and shown the meaning of God's miraculous work and His destruction of sin and death by the Gospel, the very scenes they witnessed - or avoided - in those terrible days.

Man does not work on his own faith, but the Word works on it as our salted and stretched hide receives the comfort needed through the grace of our sins forgiven through the Word.

Easter Sunday is a time of fussing over details. I made sure the lilies were at home and given special treatment (rainwater and sunshine, shelter from the two-day windstorm). My mother sprayed our hair down for Sundays, and I always played with the rock-like shell created. She wondered why my hair was so messed up with so much shellac on it. I finally told her when I was in college. So many preparations especially for that Sunday - little suits and ties to wear, clan shoes and "don't play in the mud today." Girls wore those dresses bought for Easter, no matter how wintry the day might be. Canada proved to be especially amusing in that regard. Very cold Easter Sundays were common, so the ladies shivered.

Giving Up the Burdens of Unfaith
We often feel we have to complete our duties, as the women did at the tomb, not realizing the work has been done or will be done by the Word.

Congregations do that by saying, "We are so friendly and we have so many things to do here. Please join." Do they wonder how irrelevant friendliness and busyness are? 

Go therefore and charm all nations, giving them plenty to do so they stay happy campers and pay down that gigantic mortgage. - That is missing from Matthew.

Or ministers and church teachers. What will make them feel successful? A plaque, a promotion, a list of honors and titles?



Somebody planted grape hyacinths at our house, years ago, without knowing us or knowing who would live here. They come up through the mulch, the grass, and get stronger each year. Unlike the expensive kind (not related) they grow and spread.

We enter this world without the Word of God, without the Means of Grace, and yet someone, not always our parents, will make sure we hear and know the Gospel, receive the Sacraments of Baptism and Communion, and continue in the faith. Various people have a part in this. Several are people I met once or twice, such as John W. Montgomery producing a book on the Crisis in Lutheranism, with an essay by an Augustana foreign missionary I knew via our congregation and a family relationship (related to my father's best friend, Snortin' Norton, from the teenage years). I obtained that book because a Missouri Synod pastor left the ministry so completely that all his books were left behind. I kept some, gave most away - boxes and boxes of them. That essay by someone I knew said - yes, you are right. Something is terribly wrong in the LCA. That was a step in leaving apostasy, experiencing versions of the same problem - LCMS, WELS, ELS, CLC (sic). 

Do we need to get a work done, to gather up merits, or scatter what God has already given us in the Word? We do not get to see all the results of the Gospel. We can only imagine, and our guesswork is often wrong. I heard the roses I planted on our street were going strong, 20 years later. I looked on Google maps today, and there they were. If not the originals, than ones that were planted later, where no roses grew before. At another place, on the same street, another plant was where I once had roses growing for the first time. That is like heresy replacing orthodoxy, which also happens, since heresy grows so much easily, with little extra work.

God draws together the incidentals details and pursues us with His grace, through the Word, through people who share the Word. Like the Sower and the Living Seed of the Word, we scatter rather than sending the soil to the Ag department for analysis. Some say I should do that as the first step in gardening, and yet I have gardened without a single soil sample. On a spiritual level, we do what was done for us. We have definite duties as parents and teachers and ministers, but the incidentals accomplish God's will, too.

I hear from former strangers who want to share 10 booklets with others. They are reaching far more people because those are unlikely to be friends of the same message. But who knows. The pastor, who inadvertently gave me that one book (via a member who rescued them from the garbage), did not know what he was accomplishing. I got some really choice books from another person leaving, still in school. He had an expensive book I got for very little and sold later. Lacking that reference book, our son went to the seminary bookstore and met his future wife on the way. Knowing Greek, he ended up at Walmart because his Greek student already worked there.

The risen Lord might have worked out severe and deserved punishments for His disciples-of-little-faith. Instead, He revived their hope and faith with His resurrection and His gracious urging to share the Gospel He gave them.

I see many clergy exacting revenge or elevating themselves by destroying the lives of others. Many fear them, as they should, but there remains one truth. These evil apostates can do no long-term harm. In fact, they are doing many a favor by releasing them from Holy Mother Church. What God does with that is another matter altogether. 



I had a very large rose that I just transplanted. It might have started out in grand style but the upper part demanded too much of the roots and began to fade. I severely pruned it back, to jump-start the roots and diminish the drain on the roots. The plant is healthy again and growing, as believers are when pruned by circumstance, their fruit cut away (John 15) so they can be even more fruitful.

The negative that we do has little effect in the long run, even when the Big Shots are wielding the axe instead of the Word. But the positive that we do in the Gospel will always have lasting effects. If we trusted in the Word completely, His will would be accomplished everywhere. As the Sower and the Seed shows, the only thing to do is to toss the effective and powerful Seed of the Word - everywhere, at all times, without regard to soil samples.